Is China sabotaging the North Korea denuclearization talks?

Kim’s surprise back-to-back meeting with Xi could mean the Chinese are up to no good.

From the Daily Beast:

Tuesday, President Trump revealed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on his way to North Korea. The trip had not been previously announced.

Just hours before, Beijing reported that Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, met with China’s Xi Jinping on Monday and Tuesday, in the Chinese port of Dalian. Trump spoke with Xi by phone Tuesday to discuss Xi’s surprise meeting with Kim.

The Chinese appear to be up to no good. There was, prior to the Xi-Kim meeting, fast progress in American efforts to “denuclearize” North Korea, so the involvement of Beijing, which has periodically supported the North’s weaponization efforts, is unlikely to be beneficial from the Trump administration’s point of view.

Kim’s trip to Dalian was extraordinary. Kim went to Beijing at the end of March. Protocol — the Chinese are great sticklers for it when it works to their advantage — demanded Xi return the visit before Kim returned to China. In fact, in April sources reported the Chinese leader was planning to go to Pyongyang in May or June.

Instead of Xi going to Pyongyang, Kim made another visit to Chinese soil. At least since the end of the fighting in the Korean War, never have there been two China-North Korea summits so close together in time. “It is without modern precedent for a leader to come to China on back-to-back visits as Mr. Kim has done,” said Cheng Xiaohe of Beijing’s Renmin University to The New York Times.

So why did the Dalian meeting occur? “The second meeting demonstrated that North Korea wanted China to play a larger role in the denuclearization process,” Cheng said. “When Kim enters the meeting with Trump, he will feel more confident, simply his positions on a variety of issues were consulted and sanctioned by the Chinese leader.” […]

China is making mischief at a crucial time, when both sides are establishing their initial positions. Kim hoped to “eventually achieve denuclearization and lasting peace on the peninsula,” Beijing’s statement said. To do that, the North Korean was contemplating “phased and synchronous measures in a responsible manner.”

Kim’s position is, at least at this moment, completely unacceptable to the Trump administration. “We will not relieve sanctions until such time as we have achieved our objectives,” Pompeo told reporters on his plane Tuesday while en route to North Korea. “We’re not going to do this in small increments, where the world is coerced into relieving economic pressures.”

Accordingly, Pompeo may have decided to get on his plane to undo Xi’s efforts on Monday and Tuesday with Kim. It’s noteworthy that Pompeo is going to North Korea just as positive momentum in U.S.-North Korea ties is fading. The unwelcome propaganda blast directed at the Trump administration from the Korean Central News Agency occurred over the weekend, just hours before Kim met Xi.

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